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Thursday, 12 April 2012

Guest Blogger Lisa Hardcastle on Nessie

Needless to say, I'm really happy to see the first one went down well and was of use. I'm also flattered that you'd consider another, and I can only oblige such a kind offer - I've had enough time today to write another (may be the last for a while as the rest of the month is looking a bit hectic) and have pasted it below for you to check out at your leisure. As always, thoughts welcome!
Lisa H


Could Giant Catfish Be Responsible for Reports of the Loch Ness Monster?

Besides Bigfoot and the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster is one of the world’s most famous criptids. For over eighty years, locals and visitors to the Loch, which is nestled in the Highlands of Scotland, have reported sighting a large creature that has been described as looking like everything, from a sea serpent to a dragon. It is a common belief by some cryptozoologists that the Loch Ness Monster could be a family of plesiosaurs, which somehow escaped the mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Tertiary period and is trapped in the loch.
Of course, the chances of dinosaurs having survived 65 million years and living and breeding in a Scottish loch are extreme to say the least, especially, as the loch is one of Scotland’s most visited natural beauty spots and the only evidence for the monster’s existence are grainy photographs and shaky videos. However, despite claims that the whole thing is made up by the locals to boost tourism, reports of the monster won’t go away, and these are not just the ramblings of people prone to hysteria. Sightings from all sorts of people, from chief constables to doctors, have been reported over the last eighty years, and most people living near the loch are convinced something is down there.

Loch Ness is not the only Scottish Loch that has its monster. In fact, virtually all Scottish lochs have some legend of a monster attached to them, as do many great lakes and bodies of inland water across the globe. However, “Nessie” is by far the most famous, but if she is not a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs, then what else could be causing all the reports?
Existing evidence, such as photographs and videos, has always proved inconclusive. The most famous picture of Nessie, the so-called Surgeon’s Photograph, which showed a long-necked beast rising out of the water (and probably gave rise to the plesiosaur theory), was proved a fake, and other pictures and videos either have been of too low quality or have come from dubious sources to make any reasonable assessment. However, one thing is clear, with sightings spanning from the 1930s to the present day, there is definitely something at Loch Ness, and while little proof exists in photographic or video form, the age of the first reports could hold the key as to what Nessie could actually be.

Wels catfish
The first reported sightings of a monster in Loch Ness occurred in the early 1930s. In fact, the 1930s was Nessie fever with all sorts of sightings and pictures (including the infamous “Surgeon’s Photograph”) continually appearing in the national press of the UK. Perhaps the question should be asked, as to what was so significant about the 1930s, and could the secret of Nessie tie into an event that happened fifty years earlier?
The UK has an abundance of fish, some of which grow to a fairly large sizes, such as the pike and carp. Britain also has several indigenous species of catfish in its lakes and rivers, but most of these never grow past a few feet. However, in 1880, the wels catfish, one of the largest species of catfish in the world, was introduced into the waterways of Great Britain for anglers amusement, and has continuously been stocked both legally and illegally ever since. In its native Russia, adult wels of around forty to fifty years old, can grow up to 300lb, and reach 15 feet in length, making them a truly monstrous river fish. Therefore, perhaps the introduction of the wels catfish to Scottish lochs in the late nineteenth century, which were allowed to mature and grow to monstrous sizes, could be responsible for the reported sightings of Nessie fifty years later.

Kali River goonch
If the wels is responsible, it certainly wouldn’t be an isolated case. Large catfish have been responsible, not just for monster sightings across the globe, but also for actual attacks on people. In the Kali river of India and Nepal, between 1998 and 2007, reports of a giant river creature attacking and actually devouring swimmers were reported in both the national and international media.
Several investigations conducted by documentary crews, including British biologist Jeremy Wade, discovered the culprit was a large species of catfish, known as the goonch, which had grown to be over 200lbs. While goonch don’t normally grow so large or attack humans, it was discovered that the local people of India and Nepal burned their dead in funeral pyres along the riverbanks of the Kali. It was concluded, that the goonch were feeding on the half burnt human remains, enabling them to grow far larger than their normal diet would have permitted, making them large enough to attack human swimmers.
Of course, the people of Scotland don’t have funeral pyres along the banks of Loch Ness, but the wels catfish is a known scavenger and will eat anything, from fish to waterfowl, of which there is an abundance on the loch. While the idea of a dinosaur trapped for 65 million years (which would have been 64 million years before Loch Ness formed) in a Scottish Loch may be a romantic one, the true Loch Ness monster may be something as simple as a family of large wels catfish. However, if the Kali goonch attacks are anything to go on, this makes Nessie no less a frightening monster.

Wels catfish Silurus glanis

Lisa Hardcastle is a freelance writer from England who writes on behalf of many organic producers, from ethical coffee farms to eco clothing stores, and is an expert in the latex vs. memory foam matress debate.

I should mention that Lisa supplies her own sponsor's links and I approve them. In the case of Loch Ness, the Atlantic sturgeon (recently mentioned in another posting on this blog) is more usually selected as a suspect for causing "Nessie" sightings, but there is nothing which prevents either fish or both being present at Loch Ness, either at different times or both together. And there is nothing which says that giant eels of approximately similar size could not be there in the place of one or the other, once you have established that point.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. It is a quite common assumption that Silurus glanis can grow to 15 feet and several hundred kilogramms, but it´s just not true. This particular figure of 15 feet and 300 kg (not 300 Ibs) is especially ridiculous, because at this proportions, it would look like an eel. With normal proportions a hypothetical wels of this length would weigh at least 500 kg. Over decades countless authors just copied this dates without any own research or critical thoughts. If you really take the time to look for confirmed records, population structures, growth and other parametres, reality is completely different.
    In reality there is not one single really confirmed record of a wels which reached at least 300 cm, and there is only a small handful of specimens which reached at least a little bit more than 2,7 m. Isn´t this somewhat strange? Nearly all of those extremely large specimens come from southern or south-eastern Europe, especially from regions where they were introduced. Silurus glanis highly benefits from warm temperatures, for this reason there are much more very large specimens from Italy or Spain than for example at central Europe, where they originally came from. Another factor is of course food as well, but without warm water, a wels will never grow into a monster. For this reason there aren´t any particularly big specimens on record for Great Britain, and even the largest ones are tiny compared to continental wels. Loch Ness with its very cold water wold be one of the worst places for a wels to reach large size. One of the very largest confirmed wels specimens was a monster which was caught some years ago at Italy, was 2,78 m in length and 144 kg in weight (if you look at this dates the 15 feet 300 Ibs wels would look VERY skinny). A wels in this size range is an extreme exception, even in areas with very good climate and abundant food.
    The whole story about the alleged attacks of Bagarius catfish or Goonch is also quite disputeable. This catfish grow very large in size, and it´s quite probable they consume parts of burned human corpses on occasion. But this is hardly the reason for extreme sizes, nor are those stories of attacks on water-buffaloes (!) respectable.

  2. Markus is a good friend and his remarks are quite welcome. I might add my own independant observation that the record for the wels catfish, europeam pike and atlantic sturgeon in Europe-all of them-is this same figure of 15 feet and from that much alone it seems pretty certain that somebody has made a mistake somewhere along the line.

    All the same the fact that wels catfish are sometimes sighted and reported as "lake Monsters" does seem confirmed by independant sources. This is thought to involve a healthy dose of exaggeration by the witnesses.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  3. A wels close to the surface looks indeed quite similar to some kind of monster. Even more during the mating season. I own a book about Silurus glanis which shows to wels mating near the surface, with their backs even partly out of the water, and from some distance this would look very similar to some kind of huge elongated monster.
    It´s really a very big problem that many authors - sadly even zoologists - did and do only repeat old data. For this reason many people still think arapaimas grow to 4,5 m and 200 kg. In this case even the original source is known, and it was only one single second-hand claim from the middle of the 19th century, which was copied and copied again and again, nearly without any critical research at all. Arapaimas are actually confirmed to reach around 200 kg for record specimens, but at this weight they are much smaller. Only a short time ago a specimen slightly over 300 cm was caught, and it was really a highly unusual catch.
    This problem is seen in a whole lot of animals, including many fish, large crocodiles, snakes and even some mammals. Large animals are not even the only "victims" of this problem. Ocellated lizards for example are regularly quoted to reach 90 cm. But this species is quite well studied and comparably common in captivity, and none of the known specimens came close to 90 cm. The largest physical relic was a skull which probably belonged to a specimen of around 70 cm. This 90 cm claim also date back to a single author who claimed to have seen (not measued) ocellated lizards of this size in a distinct area at the Pyrenees. Such large lizards were never found again, but still this dates found their way in nearly every description of this species. It is really quite stupid that maximum sizes, even quite dubious data, are very often given as only size description, without any information about average lengths. Another problem is that length and weight often work together, sometimes because they are from different specimens, but sometimes also because they were only estimated or just big-fish-stories.


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